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How Do You Choose the Right Probiotic for You?

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In our small and large intestines, also known collectively as our gut, we have billions of good bacteria known as probiotics. The good bacteria in our gut supports our digestion, absorption of nutrients, our immune system, and even mental health and cognitive function.

People often take probiotics in supplement form to complement their health and replace those good bacteria they need.

Taking a probiotic supplement can help with issues like bloating, gas, diarrhea, skin issues, and even symptoms of depression, but not all probiotics are the same.

The following are things to keep in mind when choosing a probiotic for your needs.

Look for Billions

When you’re choosing a probiotic, the best ones have billions of organisms. There’s something called colony-forming units or CFUs that you’ll see with probiotics. Try to find a CFU of anywhere from 5 to 100 billion. You can start with a allow dose and then work your way up if you need to.

At a minimum, you should choose a probiotic with 1 billion CFU, and you want it to contain Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, or Saccharomyces boulardii.

Many probiotics will contain different strains in the same supplement, which is good because you want diversity in your gut microbiome.

Beyond looking for a probiotic with CFU in the billions, and diversity in the strains it contains, if you have specific health concerns or symptoms, you may want certain types of probiotics.

Probiotics for Constipation

If you have constipation, particularly if it’s a chronic issue the best strains of probiotics might include:

  • lactis
  • longum
  • cerevisiae
  • acidophilus
  • rueteri
  • planatarum
  • rhamnosus
  • animalis

What About Diarrhea?

On the opposite end of the spectrum from constipation is chronic diarrhea.

This can be something you deal with because of health issues such as IBS, but it can also be linked to antibiotic use. Antibiotics kill harmful bacteria when you’re sick, but they also kill beneficial bacteria. When your bacteria balance is off following antibiotic use, it can cause diarrhea and inflammation.

Taking a probiotic can help with antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Some of the strains that might help if you deal with diarrhea include:

  • coagulans
  • boulardii
  • Combinations of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium

Brain Health

There is a connection between our brain and gut health. The bacteria that are found in our colon digests and then ferments fiber into what are called short-chain fatty acids. These compounds are also essential for the health of our brain and nervous system.

There have been reviews of both animal and human studies that have found different probiotics can help symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD, and even memory.

Some of the best strains for brain health include:

  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bifidobacterium infantitus

There was one study that lasted for eight weeks and looked at patients with major depression. Those participants who took L. acidophilus, L. casei, and B. bifidum had significant decreases in their depression.

Soil-Based Probiotics

Another option that you might consider is a soil-based probiotic.

Soil-based probiotics are organisms and bacteria that live in the soil, and they break down plant material, combat pathogens, and produce vitamins.

There are some benefits of considering a soil-based probiotic.

For example, they seem to be able to survive longer than other types of probiotics. Many probiotic strains don’t make it through digestion, but soil-based probiotics may be able to do so more effectively.

Soil-based probiotics may be especially beneficial for someone with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), which occurs when there’s an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. Even if you have too much good bacteria in your gut due to SIBO, you can develop gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas and bloating.

Some other types of probiotics can make SIBO symptoms worse, but soil-based probiotics may not.

Other Things to Know

Some of the other things you should keep in mind as you choose the best probiotic include that you should look for a dairy-free supplement. You should also be cautious about fillers and binders. Some probiotic supplements will contain ingredients like lactose that may cause more irritation in the gut.

It can also take some trial and error to find the right supplement for you. Give a supplement a few weeks to show benefits, and if it doesn’t happen within that window, try something different.

Finally, when you first start taking a probiotic, you may notice changes in your bathroom habits, but that’s actually an indicator the product is probably working well for you.

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